I often hear an annoying nostalgia by Iraqis who long for a return to the Saddam Hussein era, despite having not experienced a day of the violence under the Ba’ath regime nor realizing that Iraq was like a prison in the Hussein era. Actually, this is a strange situation; the majority of people in the past – Sunni and Shia – did not like Hussein. But, when you compare the circumstances under the Ba’ath regime to today, several people suggest their life was better under the former dictatorship. So, for as long as I can remember, I have asked myself: Why do they think like that?
For two weeks each day, I read a few pages of the “Decision Points” written by George W. Bush. In page 223, he talks about the United States war on Iraq. Bush describes the letters he exchanged, where he explains Hussein’s dominance on Iraqis’ “broken dignity.” Finally, he elaborates on why the US should have ended the Ba’ath regime.
Thus, I am comparing Hussein and Bush. Hussein’s body is in a grave, but Bush is still walking on the streets of Crawford, Texas. One has the same morale and strength he had before, while the other no longer exists. From time to time, some strangers have devastated his grave in Tikrit, which is located at his grandparent’s home.
If one asks an Iraqi today who Bush is, they would immediately mention that he is the first leader in the world able to end Hussein’s dictatorship. On the contrary, if you ask the same question to an American, they might only remember that he was the 43rd president of the United States from 2001 until 2009. Other than that, Bush is no longer the glowing person in the Americans’ memory. Now, try to compare the 43rd president to his late rival Hussein, who executed everyone that stood against him.
Moreover, Bush left a legacy that will shine and retain its glory. On the other hand, as Hussein’s memory grows older, some Iraqis wish they could return to the bad days of the Saddam era; this is one of the bad habits of Iraqi society after the fall of the Ba’ath regime. My question is: why do some Iraqis prefer Saddam’s era over today’s Iraq? What causes Kurdish youth, in particular, to yearn for the Saddam era? Did Saddam provide a better life for Kurds?
The opposite is true. The Kurdish people had received the lion’s share of destruction. Hussein chiefly implemented a policy of Arabization and displacement on the Kurdish people. In doing so, he carried out at least two terrifying genocides against them.
After Hussein’s era, the Kurds endeavored to live with the Arabs, especially Sunni Arabs, in the new Iraq and aimed to build a new Iraqi central government. So, Iraq’s Arabs always considered Kurds as an integral part of building the new Iraq because the Kurds participated in writing the federal constitution to preserve rights for all. But, contrary to expectations, and from the beginning of the formation of the Iraqi government, the federal government violated all articles of the constitution.
The Kurds soon began to search for a new escape route. They attempted to resolve conflicts through negotiations several times but never arrived at a final solution. Perhaps now, the Kurds feel there is no difference between the Shia or Sunni Arabs. As a result, some Kurdish youth hope for a return to the Saddam era.
In abstract, to bring honor back to Iraqis, they must change their political leaders. They should not hope for a return to the Saddam era because, after 2003, Bush’s victory over Hussein altered every aspect of Iraq’s political life. After the fall of Hussein’s regime, a new chapter began with the rise of freedom and democracy in Iraq.
As a matter of fact, during Hussein’s era, Iraq never had political freedom, yet corruption did not erode the administration of the government as it does today. Also, no one was able to embezzle funds and oil. Now, the political life of all parties is free, and corruption is collapsing Iraqi society. Even though some Iraqis believe they would have been better off with Hussain, no one can know what would have taken place in Iraq if he remained in power.
Luqman Hma Salih is a Kurdish writer and student at the Minnesota State Community and Technical College in the United States.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kurdistan 24.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany